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NY plan to get the mentally ill off the streets

Advocates for people with mental illness protest New York City Mayor Eric Adams' plan to force people off the streets and seek treatment, Wednesday, December 7, 2022, in New York.  (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
Advocates for people with mental illness protest New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to force people off the streets and seek treatment, Wednesday, December 7, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s latest plan to keep the mentally ill from languishing on the streets is billed as a common-sense strategy to get them help.

By encouraging police officers and city doctors to bring more people with psychological disorders to hospitals, even if they refuse care, Mayor Eric Adams says he is addressing a problem humanely rather than looking the other way . But his policy will have to overcome a legal challenge and a cold reception from some municipal legislators. In emergency rooms, psychiatrists must determine whether such patients need hospitalization, perhaps against their will.

It is not an easy decision.

“Some people arrive very agitated and have to be restrained as soon as they enter the ER… But there are also those who arrive very calm and calm, but they just attempted suicide two hours ago,” said Dr. Joel A. Idowu, who heads the department. of psychiatry at the University of Richmond Medical Center in Staten Island.

“A person who is stable now can become unstable tomorrow,” he said.

Adams, a police captain turned politician, announced the plan in late November. The Democrat’s first term has focused on what he sees as restoring a sense of safety and civic functionality disrupted during the coronavirus pandemic. Among other things, the less crowded streets and subways gave new visibility to the people who lived in them, some of them mentally ill.

Under state law, police can compel people to be taken to hospitals for evaluation if they appear mentally ill and their behavior poses a substantial risk of physical harm to themselves or others.

This is often interpreted as violent or suicidal. But Adams said he is using the space within the law to address people “whose illness is endangering them by preventing them from meeting their basic human needs.”

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